Brazilian Politics Left Reeling After Attack on Capitol

by Eileen Cooney '23 on January 29, 2023
News Staff

National and Global News

During the months following his electoral defeat to leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro aimed to discredit the results of the October election. Bolsonaro’s use of such inflammatory rhetoric incited mass violence outside of Brazil’s National Congress in Brasilia on Jan. 8, and was eerily similar to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. capitol by right-wing Trump supporters and conspiracy groups.

Reminding many of the Jan. 6 attack in the United States, a mob descended on the Brazilian capital building and Supreme Court, overpowering the police officers stationed outside. Pro-Bolsonaro protestors vandalized offices by breaking windows and doors in an attempt to overturn Bolsonaro’s October loss. Videos of the violence were posted on various social media outlets, giving the world a first-hand look into the chaos.

International condemnation of the event has been forceful. United States President Joe Biden condemned the attack as “an assault on democracy,” French President Emmanuel Macron told President Lula that he could rely “on France’s unwavering support,” and Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez called for “the immediate return to democratic normality” in Brazil. Additionally, both Colombia and Mexico have offered their support to Lula, with Colombian President Gustavo Petro saying the events represented the threat of “fascism staging a coup.”

The response from the Lula administration has been equally as forceful. In the immediate wake of the attack, Lula dispatched the National Guard to restore order and vowed to punish those supporters of Bolsonaro responsible for the violence. His Minister of Justice, Flavio Dino, also said that the government would be doing everything possible to gain more information about those involved in these “terrorist attacks.”

On Jan. 18, the office of Brazil’s prosecutor-general presented its first charges against protesters involved in anti-democratic attacks, requesting that 39 defendants be imprisoned. More charges are expected to follow against the thousands arrested for their involvement.

Citizen response to the violence has also been vibrant, as many Brazilians are still trying to process the violence that unfolded in their nation’s capital. Since Jan. 8, pro-democracy rallies have been held by leftist leaders and organizations across the nation, most notably in the country’s largest city São Paulo. Many came clad in red, the emblematic color of Lula’s Workers’ Party, and others held signs calling for the imprisonment of Bolsonaro and for trust in the electoral results.

Bolsonaro is currently in Florida, facing threats of further political isolation, prosecution, and even a potential imprisonment. The Supreme Court of Brazil has formally opened a criminal investigation into Bolsonaro’s actions, and Brazil’s Congress has vowed to open its own inquiry that could expose his involvement in the riots.